We spent a splendid week on the hard courts, watching our nieces own the game of basketball.
From our perch on bleachers throughout Wisconsin and Illinois, we saw a couple of blowouts and a genuine nail-biter involving a ref mandated wholesale uniform change, the likes of which we’d never seen before.
Through our nieces we could trace the sport’s evolution — from a loosely called fourth grade barn burner in a tiny Catholic grade school gym , to an in sync prep game in one of Wisconsin’s largest high schools, to a fast-paced game in an NCAA Division 1 auditorium.
Proportional to the athletes, the intensity level didn’t vary. They may have traveled a time or two and needed repeated instructions to line up properly to defend a free throw, but the St. Josephat Hawks played hard. We sat on the edges of our folding chairs cheering for our niece Erin, until her teammate, a little girl named Elizabeth, sank a shot at the buzzer for a thrilling 10-8 victory.
It’s no coincidence that our niece Rachel has been on championship basketball teams since she first picked up a basketball. A gifted athlete with an easy-going personality, she combines natural strength with a smooth style. Her eighth grade team won the state championship; she and the other four starters on that team all play on this year’s Sun Prairie High School squad. The night we saw them play, the Cardinals won 61-33.
I’m pretty sure our niece Shakeela Fowler was the best athlete in the McGrath-Phillips Arena, and that includes the members of the DePaul men’s basketball team who also came to watch the Blue Devils play Illinois State Saturday night. Nowhere near as tall as her 5-3 listed height, Shakeela fired no-look passes like a speedy Brett Favre, finding players who never even knew they were open. Though her program is rebuilding (DePaul won 89-41), Shakeela played with sophistication and class.
We’re going to enjoy following the Hawks, the Cardinals and the Red Birds this season. Fowl coincidence? I think not. They’re all going to soar.